Saturday, September 04, 2010

Starting Over

So, I just finished a 300 page YA novel, revised, revised, revised, edited, edited, edited, and submitted. I'm sure I'll be revisiting it eventually, but for now, it's done. So, what's next?

I have a few ideas, all of which have something started already (thank God for my writing notebook). But as I sat down, after a week's hiatus, to look at them, I had the sensation of standing at the foot of Mount Everest and thinking "Didn't I just climb this thing?" The work you do at the end of a novel and the work you do at the beginning are so very different. So much more is known and mapped out at the end. So much is shapeless at the beginning. There are, of course, more discoveries to make at the beginning, which is something to look forward to. Still, that first moment, staring up at the mountain, is a daunting one.

I'm a teacher, and I'm also poised on the brink of the new school year just now. I am struck by some similarities. In the classroom, everything goes a little more smoothly once you've laid out the routines and procedures and you've gotten to know your students. In a novel, everything goes a little more smoothly once you've figured out the central conflicts and plot outline and gotten to know your characters. But those first few days of school, all the work to be done can feel overwhelming. In both cases, progress happens one step at a time and requires patience, consistency, routine, passion and commitment.

Most teachers have a collection of "getting to know you" activities as well as creative methods for teaching routines & expectations. I'm betting most authors do, too. I have culled a few from workshops and conferences. Character wheels. Scene sketches. Various excercises - interview your character, walk through their house, write a letter from them to you or vice versa. Distill your idea into a collection of purposeful sentences. Try writing a short-story synopsis first. Outline with index cards or sticky notes.

What do you do to kick-start a new work?

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